Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization


What is Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization?

In short and more commonly known as IASTM, it is a practice of utilizing specially-designed tools to alleviate soft tissue dysfunction.

What is Soft Tissue Dysfunction?

Soft Tissue is essentially any part of the body that connects, supports or surrounds other structures of the body such as organs and bone.  Dysfunction in soft tissue can be characterized in a number of ways and range from:

  • Muscle soreness
  • Muscle tightness
  • Muscle recruitment issues (difficulty/inability to use the correct muscle(s) for a particular movement)
  • Muscular imbalances
  • Motor control issues
  • Overall immobility or limited motion
  • Pain during motion
  • Swelling, bruising and pain due to injury
  • Chronic, non-specific pain in various parts of the body.

While this encompasses quite a number of conditions, virtually everyone has experienced some form of soft tissue dysfunction and have either overcome it or continually deal with it, and may continue to do so over a long period of time.

Much of Soft Tissue Dysfunction is also commonly referred to and characterized as fascial adhesions and fascial restrictions. Fascia is an intricate web of soft tissue that encapsulates musculoskeletal structures, and is found in our bodies from head to toe.  When this web adheres or its pliable properties diminish, it creates immobility in the affected area and can often be accompanied by the feeling of tightness, soreness, and pain.  Fascial tissue carries 10x the number of sensory nerve endings as other soft tissue, and is responsible for your ability to feel even the lightest touch of a feather.  As such, dysfunction in your fascia can be an indicator, as well as the source of numerous problems, especially the aches and pains you feel throughout your body.


(cross section of soft tissue from the skin down to the muscle)

Conditions for which IASTM is typically used:

  • Medial Epicondylitis, Lateral Epicondylitis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Neck Pain
  • Plantar Fascitis
  • Rotator Cuff Tendinitis
  • Patellar Tendinitis
  • Tibialis Posterior Tendinitis
  • Heel Pain /Achilles Tendinitis
  • DeQuervain’s Syndrome
  • Post-Surgical and Traumatic Scars
  • Myofascial Pain and Restrictions
  • Musculoskeletal Imbalances
  • Chronic Joint Swelling Associated with Sprains/Strains
  • Ligament Sprains
  • Muscle Strains
  • Non-Acute Bursitis
  • RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy)
  • Back Pain
  • Trigger Finger
  • Hip Pain (Replacements)
  • IT Band Syndrome
  • Shin Splints
  • Chronic Ankle Sprains
  • Acute Ankle Sprains (Advanced Technique)
  • Scars (Surgical, Traumatic)


  • Compromised tissue integrity (open wound, infection, tumor)
  • Active implants (pacemaker, internal defibrillator, picc/pump lines)
  • DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis)
  • Cervical carotid sinus

How can IASTM help with Soft Tissue Dysfunction?

Imagine the function of velcro: two sides coming together to create a firm coupling of fibres on each side.  Although this is a desirable effect when fastening a pair of gloves, as an example, this is the effect immobile fascia has on your body, resulting in you feeling tightness, lack of mobility, and often times, pain.  Ideally, soft tissue should glide with ease, much like a curling rock gliding on ice with minimal resistance.

IASTM tools like Rockblade help by mechanically and neurologically alleviating affected areas through scraping of the skin.  While the tools themselves and the “scraping” methodology seem intimidating at first, the practice is generally meant to be painless with little to no bruising occurring.  How is this possible?

Early schools of thought in IASTM suggested that mechanically altering (physically distorting) tissue was the source of the beneficial characteristics of this practice (much like going for an intense, deep-tissue massage).  However, because of the densely innervated (lots of nerve endings) property of the fascia within soft tissue, we are able to achieve therapeutic benefits through stimulus of the nervous system by way of specific application of pressure and strokes in affected areas.  Because the fascia is so dense in nerve endings and sensitive to stimuli, pressure applied below the pain threshold is generally all that is required to achieve results.

Therefore, there is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to receiving this form of therapy! Rockblade tools have various contours and bevelled edges designed specifically for the various parts of your body, from the larger areas of your back to the more sensitive, fragile areas of your wrist, hands, ankles and feet.  Furthermore, the Rockblade tools are designed to assist in identifying soft tissue dysfunctions in your body, and ergonomically shaped such that practitioners like me can apply appropriate pressures and strokes with less fatigue.

Want a definitive answer on whether IASTM therapy with Rockblade will assist you? Here is a self-assessment you can do to see how well you move.  MOVE BETTER, FEEL BETTER!

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If you are still curious about IASTM, Rockblade and its benefits, have a look at this Movement Pyramid which describes how this type of therapy will benefit you and your ability to move efficiently.